The 11 Types of Lip Sync Scenes From the Movies

Duckie Pretty in Pink

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By Kevin Maher

Saturday Night Live writer Michael O’Donoghue observed that the 1950’s fad of paint-by-numbers perfectly captured the hopes and dreams of post-war America, asking, “What better metaphor for life under Joseph McCarthy’s rigid witch-hunting regime than a style of painting in which you had to stay carefully within the lines?”

The current fad of celebrity lip-syncing echoes paint-by-numbers, with artists going through the motions and giving the audience what they expect is coming. (See also: movie remakes and reboots.)

What’s more, lip-syncing gives famous people a chance to be relatable (“they’re just like us!“) and aspirational (even celebrities wish to be like other famous people). But long before this celebrity parlor game was a TV staple, lip-syncing was featured in some famous movie scenes. There are roughly 11 categories of celebrity lip syncing scenes:

1. The Creepy-Ass Lip Sync

Dean Stockwell belongs in some hall-of-fame for this unnerving performance of Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” from Blue Velvet. The creep-factor is upgraded by Dennis Hopper’s mesmerized reverence and Brad Dourif dancing with a snake. (See also: Mulholland Drive, where David Lynch features some almost grotesque sing-along numbers in the movie within a movie.)

And of course, we can thank Reservoir Dogs for making us all shudder whenever Stealers Wheel’s “Stuck in the Middle With You” comes on the classic rock station.

2. The Irreverent/Sexually Frustrated Teen Lip Sync

If there’s one thing John Hughes got right about smart-ass teens of the ’80s, it’s that they best express themselves through lip-sync. Whether it’s Ferris Bueller in the Von Steuben Day parade or Ducky serenading a girl out of his league, mouthing along to music is a go-to device. Of course, Ducky’s infamous performance comes off as uncomfortable cultural appropriation today, which brings us to…

3. The Racially Problematic Lip Sync

Preston Sturges’ films were known for rapid-fire comic dialogue, but he wasn’t above a good synchronization gag. In The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek, Trudy Kockenlocker (actress Betty Hutton) presents herself as the singer of a Paul Robeson-esque song. This 1944 film helped pave the way for generations of white people imitating black artists.

4. The Candid Moment Lip Sync

Most movies won’t show the hero masturbating to his beloved (well, except for Fast Times at Ridgemont High, of course) — so what’s the next best humiliating solo act? Lip-syncing to sappy songs. Extra credit if the character is “caught in the act.” The opening song from Just Friends features Ryan Reynolds in an Eddie Murphy style fat-suit mock crooning to the All-4-One classic “I Swear.”

Then of course there’s Tom Cruise’s infamous underwear lip-sync from Risky Business

Which became so popular, it was parodied by ALF…

See also: Hugh Grant’s lovelorn Prime Minister dancing to The Pointer Sisters’ “Jump (for My Love)” in Love, Actually.

5. The Group Car Ride Lip Sync

What starts as a singalong turns into a lip sync with Wayne and Garth mouthing the final chorus of “Bohemian Rhapsody” to each other. As many karaoke singers have discovered, it’s quite a long song.

6. The Flirtatious Duet Lip Sync

Is there anything more playful (in a PG-13 sort of way) than a man and woman moving their mouths to the radio while making eyes at each other? That flirty chemistry is best captured by Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey moving to “Oh, Baby” in Dirty Dancing.

See also: Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig lip-syncing to Jefferson Starship in The Skeleton Twins. (Yes, we know they’re brother and sister.)

7. The Celebrity Impersonating Another Celebrity Lip Sync

Behold, the very rare meta-lip-sync. Jim Carrey imitates Andy Kaufman playing along as Mighty Mouse in a routine from the first episode of Saturday Night Live in 1975.

8. The “We Sure Had Fun Making This Movie” Lip Sync

For years the closing-credits blooper reel was the filmmakers’ way to tell the audience, “Lighten up! Even if you didn’t enjoy watching this movie we had a ball making it!” (See The Cannonball Run or Liar, Liar.) In 1998, the Farrelly Brothers upped the ante by combining an outtakes reel with a musical number. There’s Something About Mary ends with the cast and crew goofing around and lip-syncing to The Foundations” “Build Me Up Buttercup.”

9. The Lip Sync as Seduction

Here we have Wayne’s World‘s Garth Algar again, using the ’70s classic “Foxy Lady” to put the moves on his dream woman.

10. The Angry Lip Sync

Jennifer Lawrence mixes angry cleaning with angry lip syncing (and a little angry singing) in this memorable scene from American Hustle. She also channeled Santana in a deleted lip sync to “Evil Ways” that plays as more “comedic actor moment” than “spurned suburban housewife.”

11. The Lip Sync as Lip Sync

Finally, sometimes a lip sync scene is just a lip sync scene. For instance, there’s Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths (above) performing “Waterloo” in a lip sync competition in Muriel’s Wedding.

And here’s Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving and Guy Pearce performing “I Will Survive” and the ’90s dance club staple “Finally” in The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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Byrning Down the House

Everything You Need to Know About the Film That Inspired “Final Transmission”

Documentary Now! pays tribute to "Stop Making Sense" this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Cinecom/courtesy Everett Collection

This week Documentary Now! is with the band. For everyone who’s ever wanted to be a roadie without leaving the couch, “Final Transmission” pulls back the curtain on experimental rock group Test Pattern’s final concert. Before you tune in Wednesday at 10P on IFC, plug your amp into this guide for Stop Making Sense, the acclaimed 1984 Talking Heads concert documentary.

Put on Your Dancing Shoes

Hailed as one of the best concert films ever created, director Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) captured the energy and eccentricities of a band known for pushing the limits of music and performance.

Make an Entrance

Lead singer David Byrne treats the concert like a story: He enters an empty stage with a boom box and sings the first song on the setlist solo, then welcomes the other members of the group to the stage one song at a time.

Steal the Spotlight

David Byrne Dancing
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Always a physical performer, Byrne infuses the stage and the film with contagious joy — jogging in place, dancing with lamps, and generally carrying the show’s high energy on his shoulders.

Suit Yourself

Byrne makes a splash in his “big suit,” a boxy business suit that grows with each song until he looks like a boy who raided his father’s closet. Don’t overthink it; on the DVD, the singer explains, “Music is very physical, and often the body understands it before the head.”

View from the Front Row

Stop Making Sense Band On Stage
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Demme (who also helmed 1987’s Swimming to Cambodia, the inspiration for this season’s Documentary Now! episode “Parker Gail’s Location is Everything”) films the show by putting viewers in the audience’s shoes. The camera rarely shows the crowd and never cuts to interviews or talking heads — except the ones onstage.

Let’s Get Digital

Tina Weymouth Keyboard
Cinecom/Everett Collection

Stop Making Sense isn’t just a good time — it’s also the first rock movie to be recorded entirely using digital audio techniques. The sound holds up more than 30 years later.

Out of Pocket

Talk about investing in your art: Talking Heads drummer Chris Frantz told Rolling Stone that the members of the band “basically put [their] life savings” into the movie, and they didn’t regret it.

Catch Documentary Now!’s tribute to Stop Making Sense when “Final Transmission” premieres Wednesday, October 12 at 10P on IFC.

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